What Makes a Car a Lemon: This is What You Need to Understand

Jan 09, 2020 02:33 PM EST | Ernest Hamilton

What Makes a Car a Lemon: This is What You Need to Understand

(Photo : What Makes a Car a Lemon: This is What You Need to Understand)

You know the old phrase, "when life hands you lemons make lemonade." How are you supposed to react when your dream car turns out to be a lemon? You take action right away.

So, what makes a car a lemon?

A lemon car is any new vehicle that comes with several specific defects. These manufacturing problems will render a new vehicle unsafe to drive, leaving you stranded without a usable car. Worse yet, you can't even get an experienced mechanic to fix your vehicle.

You're not alone in your plight, either. According to recent reports, over 150,000 new cars turn out to be lemons. With so many lemon cars, states started taking action to remedy the situation for angry drivers.

Learn more about the ins and outs of lemon cars, and how states are protecting your rights against lemons!

What Makes a Car a Lemon?

Every lemon car has vehicular issues, but not all car-related problems constitute a vehicle as a lemon. Lemon cars have specific manufacturing defects.

For example, a car with too many miles isn't a lemon. A vehicle that develops brake issues over time isn't a lemon, but a new car that comes with defective brakes can be considered a lemon.

Here's a breakdown of common problems related to lemon cars:

  • A new car is irreparable issues

  • Unable to drive properly under warranty

  • Defects must be present within a specific time window (immediately after purchase)

  • The defects continue after repairs are made

  • A faulty steering wheel

  • Brakes that don't work from the start (and can't be fixed!)

  • Substantial defects (not minor defects)

This is where lemon cars get tricky. A broken steering wheel, for example, may allow you to claim your vehicle as a lemon because it's a "substantial defect." A faulty steering wheel is a significant safety hazard.

However, that squeaky sound from your glove compartment isn't significant enough to warrant your car as a lemon. The key word here is "substantial." Furthermore, what one state sees as substantial may not be honored in another state.

You must prove that your lemon car defects have a significant impact on the safety and value of your vehicle. Since every state operates differently, you must thoroughly research the lemon laws in your state before filing a claim.

What a Lemon Car is NOT

Understanding what doesn't constitute as a lemon car is just as important as knowing what does. This will save you a considerable amount of time and filing fees.

Remember, a defect must be substantial enough to put safety and value at risk. Unfortunately, the following problems don't fall under the lemon car definition:

  • A botched paint job on a new car

  • Scratches on the surface of your vehicle

  • A used car from a private sale

  • Weird smells and odors

  • Imperfections in vehicle upholstery

  • Loose car radio knobs

  • Repairable car radio issues

  • Scratches on the interior of your vehicle

  • Dirty car floors

These are all examples of "minor" problems that don't pose any substantial harm or risk.

However, states have their own lemon laws. Some of these minor issues may fall under your state's lemon laws, so it's essential to research these laws first. You may have a lemon on your hands and not even realize it!

For example, while some states may not consider poor paint jobs as a lemon defect, other states may consider it. This is a difficult case to argue since debris frequently impacts paint jobs. Plus, your botched paint job may fall under your dealership's warranty plan.

If the paint job severely impacts the value of your car, even after several repair attempts, a good lawyer may be able to help.

What to Do When You Have a Lemon Car on Your Hands

If you think you have a lemon car, don't hesitate to take action. Time is of the essence. You have a limited time window to act.

Treat your lemon automobile like any other legal case. Collect as much evidence as possible. Depending on your home state, your car will need to undergo a particular number of repairs before it can be considered a "lemon." States require car manufacturers to provide a "reasonable" number of repairs before drivers can file a claim under their state's respective lemon laws.

However, the word "reasonable" is tricky, and the allotted number of repairs varies from state-to-state. The first thing you need to do is to research your state lemon laws and contact the manufacturer right away to begin the repair process.

If your car is fixed within a few repairs, and there is no danger to the safety and value of the vehicle, you no longer have a lemon on your hands. If the defect persists after repairs, then you have a case.

Contact the manufacturer before calling a lawyer. You may have to deal with an arbitration clause highlighted in your dealership contract.

If the repairs don't take, the car manufacturer will have to compensate you. This is the case in states like California. You'll need to calculate a repurchase of your lemon to find out if you're being adequately compensated.

If your manufacturer lowballs you or doesn't commit to repairs, contact a lemon car lawyer as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it is to prove your case.

Remember to document the process step-by-step, starting with the first defect. Take photos, collect witness statements, and save all your receipts. Print out your warranty, and keep all of your correspondence with the manufacturer.

Turn Lemon Car Woes Into Lemonade

Are your ready to get that awful lemon car out of your driveway?

Remember, the law is on your side when you're stuck with a lemon. Understand what makes a lemon car and fight for the compensation you deserve. Check out your state's lemon laws right now for additional information.

The more you know, the less you stress. Stay up to date on the latest facts, laws, and stats for drivers just like you.

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